Is everyone ready for the holiday season to begin? I’m not, especially since the beta’s birthday is this week, too. Anyway, I thought I’d kick off the week with an excerpt from my upcoming release, Widdershins. Enjoy!
The walk back through the police station was a blur. As soon as my shoes hit the slushy sidewalk outside, I quickened my pace. Cold air stung my face, but failed to soothe the heat burning there.
“Dr. Whyborne! Wait!”
I could run, but would just end up slipping on a bit of ice and sprawling at Flaherty’s feet. “I do not appreciate being used, sir,” I snapped, aiming the words back over my shoulder.
I slowed to cross a street, and he used the opportunity to catch up to me. “Dr. Whyborne—”
“You’ll have your blasted translation,” I said firmly, not looking at him as I strode across to the other corner. Despite his shorter legs, he managed to keep up with me. “I’ll finish it as soon as humanly possible, at which point, I trust, you will never again darken my doorstep.”
His hand landed on my shoulder once again. The warmth and weight of it sent a little shock through me. I shrugged it off.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “Please, slow up.”
“You knew, didn’t you?” I asked. Bitterness rose like stinging bile in my throat, and for once I didn’t bother to disguise it. Of course he didn’t want my company at the station because he valued my opinion; he wanted it because he hoped my father’s name would intimidate Tilton into telling the truth.
I was a fool. An utter, thoroughgoing fool.
“Of course I know who your father is,” he said, not bothering to deny it. “And, yes, I will admit, I’d hoped your name would hold sway with Tilton.”
“If you had warned me—”
“Would you have gone?”
“You’ll never know now, will you?”
He let out a sigh. “No. Forgive me, if you can. It’s just…you are as much a cipher to me as that book.”
His words surprised me into glancing at him. His gaze was focused straight ahead, the rusty brown strands in his irises darkening the green now, his mouth pursed in a frown.
“I hardly see how I could be a cipher to anyone,” I said stiffly. “After all, you clearly have the facts at your disposal.”
“Percival Endicott Whyborne, youngest child of railroad tycoon Niles Whyborne. You neither attended your father’s alma mater nor went into the family business, a situation which might be explained by the fact your older brother did both. Except your father has never donated to the museum where you are employed, and you live in a modest apartment, apparently on nothing more than the salary the museum pays you.”
“As I said.”
“Not at all. I know the what but not the why.”
Even worse. “I am but another mystery to you. A challenge, as you said earlier.” A specimen, to be viewed and dissected.
His hand curled around my elbow, slowing me as we turned onto Old Mill Street. “I wish you would give me the opportunity to explain.”
“I see no need for—”
Flaherty suddenly yanked me into a fetid alleyway. Before I could think to protest, he grabbed both my arms and shoved me backward, into a sort of alcove formed by the chimneys of adjoining buildings. Rough brick scraped my back, and my shoes sank into something best not examined too closely.
“Wh-what are you doing?” I gasped. “I do not appreciate—”
He laid a finger over my lips, and the sheer audacity of the gesture silenced me. His skin was chilled against my mouth; in his haste, he hadn’t put his gloves back on. Even though our only contact was through his finger, warmth flooded my entire body.
“Shh,” he murmured, his breath ghosting over my cheek. “We’re being followed.”
“F-followed?” I whispered, acutely aware of the movement of my lips against his finger.
“Followed.” His scent enveloped me: warm skin, damp wool, and sandalwood. “Hold still—I wish to see who has such an interest in our doings.”
I nodded dumbly, my thoughts ricocheting inside my skull. Satisfied, he dropped his hand and turned his back to me, peering out in the direction of the street. The curve of one buttock pressed lightly against my thigh, palpable even through the cloth of our trousers.
My heart sped, and blood surged downward, stiffening my member. I shut my eyes and ground my fingertips against the rough brick wall behind me, frantic for distraction. Dear heavens, what was wrong with me? I should not—I could not—react like this, not to anyone, and certainly not to a man who made his living prying into the secrets of others.
His posture shifted into a ready stance, and I opened my eyes. Even though Flaherty’s overlong hair was nearly in my face, I was quite a bit taller, and could see past him to the entrance of the alley.
A figure had paused there, although whether man or woman, it was impossible to tell. A black cloak enveloped its stooped frame, and a long scarf and wide-brimmed hat concealed its features. Its head lifted slightly, and I had the horrible impression it was sniffing for us, like some sort of enormous bloodhound. The same repulsive scent I’d noticed outside my window last night teased my senses.
Flaherty froze, without even the slight stirring of breath to give us away. I did my best to mimic him, even though it seemed my heart was about to smash through my ribs. An instinctive fear and revulsion for the mysterious figure gripped me, something born from the primitive recesses of my brain, which yet remembered the terror of prey for its predator.
Widdershins will be released December 4!